3939 Grand Avenue
Murals on North and South Walls, Dealey Library (West Texas Room), 1936 Oil on canvas, 7 x 13 feet © James D. Lea
When Dallas was preparing for the 1936 Texas Centennial celebration, Tom Lea was chosen to paint murals for the West Texas Room. He was an El Paso native and the quality of his murals was well known after he won a national competition for the Ben Franklin Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. the year before.
The mural above the cowhide wall is a central cowboy surrounded by horsemen and cattle. A windmill, tank, corral, and Texas hills in the background provide additional details of life on the range. The mural on the opposite wall is a pioneer family traveling over rocky country perched high over a homestead and town. Though West Texas in theme, the Renaissance master Luca Signorelli’s murals were a great influence on the artist.
Tom Lea worked from life and used Lawrence Cooper - his father’s friend from Sherman, New Mexico who was a great roper and wore “batwing” chaps - as his model for the central figure. Since Cooper was such an “ugly old rascal,” Tom Lea chose a cowman from Sierra Blanca, Texas for the head. Joe and Marjorie Lea, Tom’s brother and sister-in-law, posed for the pioneer couple and his younger brother, Dick, posed for the boy.
The Dallas Historical Society was organized on March 31, 1922, by 101 prominent citizens who wished to encourage historical inquiry. In 1938, the Society assumed the management of the magnificent Hall of State at the request of the City of Dallas. The Hall of State is one of the finest examples of art deco architecture in the country and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a part of Fair Park.
In 1986, the building was restored at a cost of approximately $1.5 million, and the G.B. Dealey Library was opened in the West Texas Room. The Historical Society is the oldest historical organization in Dallas County that is committed to preserving the area's entire history. The Historical Society preserves rare Dallas and Texas-related three-dimensional objects, including James Fannin's watch and Santa Anna's Texas Campaign medal. The G.B. Dealey library holds more than ten thousand bound volumes and three million historic documents, including Sam Houston's handwritten account of the battle of San Jacinto. All materials are stored in the Society's archives in the Hall of State and in a storage facility nearby.
2943 SMU Blvd Dallas, TX 75205
A reproduction of Tom Lea’s Rio Grande is displayed in the full-scale replica of the Oval Office. President Bush often quoted Tom Lea’s optimistic words about living on the east side of the mountain - it is the sunrise side, not the sunset side. It is the side to see the day that is coming, not the side to see the day that is gone. The best day is the day coming, with the work to do, with the eyes wide open, with the heart grateful.”